Very last day in Kyoto. I should say – i saved the best for last.
I did a little shopping here in the morning – i must give u an advice about shopping and things u might want to take home. I was traveling almost a month in Japan – and wherever i found some things i loved just kept sayin: “i wont carry it all way thru, i will find everything in Tokyo at the last days” – so i did not buy some stuff i should have. Because u wont find everything in Tokyo.
Japan is so special, every prefectures are so different and these regions having lots of very unique experiences, ingredients, products. I bought golden coffee from Kanazawa, where golden is a symbol, or traditinal awamori booze from Okinawa. Nobody wants to carry 10 kilos of sake for 3 weeks – but like for sake i found the very best shop in Tokyo at the end and i did end up carrying 8 kilos of sake but only to the airport. Details laters. Main point is: try everything, and buy! especially if locals telling u its speciality from the region. I did buy matcha tea and some delicious tsukemono from the market of Kyoto plus! As a bonus i surprised myself with a beautiful chef knife from the famous Aritsugu shop which u can easily find in the Nishiki Market. I suggest to go in the early hours where the other shops are closed – otherwise the crowd is a bit too much and they wont have time to spend for finding the perfect knife for u. I bought a small vegetable knife plus they carved my japanese name on it. Love it (however i did fucked it up a bit while killing some lobsters- silly meeeeeeeee) its was 12.000yen. Dont miss it.
After shopping… probably the biggest thing was about to come. Meeting up with my 20 years old pen friend. YES! Fucking unbelievable, a real ‘bollywoody’ story. Let me start at the beggining. Im not going to ‘fairy tale’ the last 20 years in my life, but approx 20 years ago when i was in grammar school i could pick a name out from a list of children all over the worlds who wanted to find someone to practise ‘English’. I did choose Kyoe Aoki from Osaka. I guess just loved the name so we started to write to each other. Im not sure for how long – but it was before the time of real internet or emails or facebook or anything. Probably we kept contact for a couple of years sending pictures and little gifts, dreaming about a day when we can see each other. And after like everything in life – ‘gone with the wind’. Till this year February.
Was back home in Hungary for a quick visit when i found the letters… and got the idea. Straight away. I quickly sent a letter (by post!) to the old address i had – not knowing if anyone still lives there from the same family. Luckily the parents of Kyoe got the letter and gave it to her immediately – i was asking her to find me on facebook, instagram or by email because “im coming and would like to meet her”! She responded quickly by facebook – i could not find her before cause she got married and changed her name. But she got just as excited as i was plus she insisted to be my host at their home while im in Osaka. WOOOOOOW – mindblowing, i wasnt expected that, greatest thing ever! She was a very big help organizing some parts of my trip and giving me lots of great tips and recommendations. So i was about to meet her in Kyoto at very first time (they live in Osaka but Kyoto and Osaka are pretty close to each other) where she was organizing a ‘wagashi workshop’ for us. This time i was able to take apart as it was 2 of us plus my friend being japanese speaking japanese and it opens many doors.
If i remember well we meet up somewhere in Gion (geisha district) in a metro station – was crazy. Never met her before and voila! She was standing in front of me with a huge smile and a beautiful baby at her back – checking me out. It was… pretty unbelievably emotional. Big hugs and kisses. Kyoe was struggling a bit with the language (english) but was not a problem at all.
We found the sweetshop to make this very pretty japanese sweet; ‘wagashi‘. The base is always sweet bean puree what u can form as easy as plasticine. I just found a kindofgreat video on utube here how to make the base – its in japanese but pretty straight forward with washing, draining, cooking, smashing the beans. We didnt make this base – it was done already – so we could focus on ‘how to make it pretty’.
Sitting on the floor working on very low tables – following the intruction of the ‘wagashi chef’ who was trying to translate everything into english (only for me! how sweet is that) after explaining the proccess and technique to the other bunch of japanese visitors. I enjoyed it very very much – i think Kyoe loved it also – however half of the time she was playing with her little boy who was bored enough to cry couple of times. Other than that was such an angel. We made 4 different wagashi sweets (symbolizing flowers or plants usually), than having a tea enjoying one of them while we got our ‘take away box’ with the other 3 init. If i remember well… we paid around 1200-1500yen for this workshop. Worth every single penny. Do it if u can.
It was time for Kyoe to take her train back home and for me to look for some dinner*** before my ‘maiko night’ starts. I mentioned before, i booked this Maiko night in the Kyoto Granbell Hotel for 5000yen.
*** dinner have to be mentioned – gyozas and dumplings of my life. 10 meters away from the Hotel on a tiny corner. Cheap and amazing.
footnote: i did mention before – just keep it clear: Maiko is an apprentice Geiko. Geiko is Geisha but in Kyoto they called them Geiko.
Our Maiko was 17years old (they ‘students till 17-20yrs old) and unfortunately i dont remember her name. The show was 90minutes long, our Maiko showed 3 dances, one play and we had time to ask our questions about life becoming a Geisha. My overall opinion about this profession – does not worth it. Its not a job, its a way of life. They have only one day off (New Years Day), need to look perfect and have their makeup on every single day nomatter what. Hairdresser once every week – but to maintain their haircrown they sleep in a weird and pretty unconfortable pillow.
Every single day – in their whole life. The special geisha kimono cost a fortune – from distance it looks amazing but having a closer look its almost becoming a big heavy curtain folded around a little body makes walking very difficult. I think it also heavy as fuck. Lots of questions about earning money, relationships, friends, everyday life. I had to ask about the obligations towards to clients… lol. Obviously a Geisha/Geiko is for entertainment only. Sophisticated entertainment, where sex is not incluled in the price. LOL.
footnote: last dance in the dark – the real reason why there wear superwhite and strong makeup is pretty simple — to be visible in dark – as they have been doing their performances longer time and electric light exists.